Precipitation change: models and paleoreconstructions

MV Shabalova, GP Können, II Borzenkova

Zonal-scale patterns of precipitation change, as reconstructed for the Mid-Pliocene and the two Pleistocene optima, are compared with those generated in standard 2xCO2-1xCO2 equilibrium experiments by two high-resolution GCMs of equal sensitivities of global precipitation and temperature to CO2 doubling. We find that the three warm paleoclimates, despite differences in boundary conditions/forcings, exhibit a similarity in zonal-scale patterns of change for precipitation over land in the Northern Hemisphere (NH); the between-epoch pattern correlation is 0.9 on the average. The two models give marked differences in zonal distribution of precipitation anomalies at mid-latitudes; the between-model pattern correlation for changes of precipitation over NH land is 0.4.

The response of precipitation over the NH land area to the NH warming is about 10%/oC in the paleodata compared to 3%/oC in the models. The largest model/paleodata descrepancy refers to the present-day desert belt, where a large precipitation anomaly persists in all epochs. North of 50N, the absolute values of the zonally-averaged precipitation anomalies simulated by both models fall in the range implied by the three warm paleoclimates, but they are systematically lower than the anomalies of the Mid-Pliocene. If our reconsructions are valid and if climate changes in the Mid-Pliocene were driven solely by CO2 changes, then our results suggest that models are underestimating the magnitude of the precipitation response, especially in the regions of subtropical deserts; the magnitude of the simulated temperature response at high latitudes is also underestimated. At least part of the reported model/paleodata discordance appears to be due to lack of interactive land surface package in the models examined

Bibliographic data

MV Shabalova, GP Können, II Borzenkova. Precipitation change: models and paleoreconstructions
Status: published, Journal: Climatic Change, Volume: 42/4, Year: 1999, First page: 693, Last page: 712

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